By Kristen Oliver
Growing up my mom would ask me, “How are your devotions going?” Every time she would ask me that I feel convicted because I knew they were not going well, or even at all. I tried the One Year Bible, and failed after a few weeks, then fell too far behind to “catch up.” I tried just reading a chapter in the Bible and then praying, but that never seemed enough, I didn’t understand everything I read and honestly I got bored. I kept trying different things until I found what worked for me.
There were 2 specific turning points in my life that helped to strengthen my devotional life. One was when I went on a mission’s trip and was required to read my Bible for 30 minutes every day. The second time was when I received a study bible for Christmas, which helped me understand better what I was reading.
Once I developed a habit (It takes at least 21 days of doing anything to become a habit so don’t give up!) of daily devotions I also discovered 5 things that improved my devotional time and made it a more effective use of my time.
1) Find your “spot”
I like to do my devotions first thing in the morning, ideally before the kids wake up but that doesn’t always happen. I put on a pot of coffee, grab my study Bible, pen and journal and sit down at the kitchen table. I am a writer so I need a table top for writing, but when I’m just reading I use a nice comfy chair in my bedroom, find what works for you. Ideally you should have a “spot” to do your devotions, somewhere comfortable where you won’t be easily distracted. Also a spot throughout the day reminds you to do your devotions or maybe reminds you of what you read that morning.
2) Listen to worship music
As a college student I had to be listening to music while I was studying or I couldn’t focus. I realize some people need silence, but that is few and far between in this season of my life, so music kind of becomes consistent background noise. However, it’s not only background noise because when I am listening to Kari Jobe, Elevation or Bethel, I inevitably hear a song that resonates with my soul and helps to clarify or reaffirm what God is trying to tell me. Sometimes my heart is heavy and I just need to sit, pray and listen to God and that is when worship music is truly powerful and effective. Try it next time and tell me what you think if it helped you or not.
3) Read 1 chapter in a Study Bible from Old and New Testament
The key here is Study Bible! The Study Bible will help clarify your reading, create background knowledge and presents the gospel in layman’s terms. Even if you have read the entire Bible I guarantee you will learn so much when you are reading the scriptures with the help of a study bible. I also believe it is a great tool to help people who have questions about scripture or even about being a Christian. Sometimes we may not know exactly what to say or how to say it and the study bible helps answer those questions.
4) Write down a scripture that sticks out to you
It never fails that every time I am reading the Bible something I read smacks me in the face! It is important to write these scriptures down. When we write down what we read it helps to commit it to our long-term memory and we can go back and re-read what stuck out to us on that date. There have been several instances when I have underlined, copied or starred scripture and when I am re-reading I remember what I was feeling in those moments. I thank God that he has delivered me from feelings of insecurity, malice, greed, jealousy, etc.…and pray that he continues to.
5) Turn what you read into a prayer
Something I just recently started dong in my devotions is turning the scripture that stands out to me into a prayer. Imagine reading, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Then praying, “Heavenly Father, I pray that you would help me not to be anxious about what the future holds, that you would give me a sense of peace. That I can feel happy during this season of my life and not anxious and worried about life events I cannot control.” We can read all sorts of scripture and positive affirmations, but until we put them into practice they are just words. When we pray to our father that is when we are taking action. This simple step has helped to make my devotion time so much more effective and prayer filled. I hope if nothing else, that you try this in your devotion time and see how it revolutionizes your life.
To spice things up get a book or an app that compliments your devotions on days when you need a little extra, although I have used books as my personal devotion time I believe that there is power in God’s word and we should be ready any other book as a supplement but not in place of the Bible.